By Ken Sturtz
Before being interviewed for this story Michael Riecke fielded a call from a student who graduated in May and recently started her first job in TV. She wanted to talk through some of the challenges she was encountering.
It was the second call in a week from a former student seeking his advice.
“The mentorship doesn’t end once a student is no longer a student,” he said. “It’s a good feeling that someone out there trusts me enough to call and ask for my opinion long after they’ve left my classroom.”
Riecke is one of the go-to professors for students aspiring to a career in broadcasting. He counts former students at just about every TV station in Upstate New York. His students have gone on to work in big cities and small towns and even at TV networks.
Riecke places a special emphasis on mentoring students and is also able to draw on a wealth of practical experience. Before transitioning to teaching he spent nearly a decade working as an award-winning reporter, producer, and anchor.
His passion for journalism was stoked at an early age. Growing up in northern Pennsylvania, near Binghamton, his parents were loyal local TV news viewers and the TV was always on. As a boy he created his own newspaper with a children’s typewriter and he and his sister often played TV news together. When he received an assignment to write about who he aspired to be when he grew up, Riecke picked Peter Jennings, the anchor of “World News Tonight” on ABC.
He enrolled in Syracuse University and studied broadcast journalism. An internship at the ABC affiliate in Binghamton led to a part-time job. For several years he commuted to Binghamton in between classes, working weekends and nights.
His junior year he started at NewsChannel 9 in Syracuse. By his senior year he was working full time, mostly weekends and nights. He found himself helping professors with classes, like a teaching assistant. It was a rewarding experience that made him think about teaching.
After college Riecke continued working in Syracuse, becoming a weekend anchor.
He enjoyed TV, but he became interested in teaching. He completed a master’s at Le Moyne College while working full time anchoring the morning news. After earning his master’s Riecke decided to transition into higher education. He served as student media manager at Quinnipiac University where he enjoyed helping students become better content producers. A couple years later he returned to Central New York and eventually became an adjunct at Oswego. He became a full-time professor in 2011.
“One of my favorite parts of the job is getting to know students and mentoring them,” he said.
He frequently advises prospective students to make it a point to make connections with faculty. It can be beneficial to find a professor with similar academic interests and get to know them.
“It’s really hard to do if you only see them in a class here or there,” Riecke said.
Students Riecke gets to know well have usually taken several of his classes or stopped by his office hours occasionally. But he also makes an effort to meet students in less formal settings. He serves as faculty adviser for the student TV station, WTOP-10, and often stops by the station to chat with students and spends time working with the student leadership. He also coordinates Oswego’s Los Angeles program, Hollywood POV.
Students often seek him out for advice because besides his professional experience and some occasional freelancing, he stays current with what’s happening in the changing TV industry and what skills employers are looking for.
“One of the things I spend a lot of time on is trying to maintain those industry connections,” Riecke said. “I’m chatting with and engaging with people who work at different levels of the industry on a regular basis.”
Some of those people are former students. Riecke tries to stay in tune to industry trends so he can be a resource for his students, but admits he also does it because he loves the broadcasting industry and remains fascinated by it.
That shows. Each semester when he receives student evaluations one of the most frequent comments has something to do with his energy and passion in the classroom.
“I think sometimes my excitement and passion for the industry wears off on students,” Riecke said. “And that’s always my goal.”